Oftentimes, seemingly bright individuals lament the deafening silence that follows their job applications. While limited job slots and favouritism might be responsible for this scenario, other times the problem is as simple as a series of poorly written resumes.
In Nigeria, most reputable organisations outsource recruitment services to agencies which in turn vet CVs comprehensively before forwarding to them for review. This process ensures that poorly crafted resumes get screened out summarily. For organisations with a structured HR department, the screening process may be much stiffer, unless they are in dire need of employees and can afford to overlook clearly unforgivable errors. The following errors are markers you must correct for your CV to ever stand a chance with potential employers.
WRONG USE OF COLOURS: This is perhaps one of the first major markers your hiring manager would spot on picking up your CV. Unless you are applying for the position of a web or graphics designer, in which case web links to previous work done are preferable to colourful texts, you have no business making a palette of your CV. So, if you cannot work your way around blue, black or either, you may need to start practising quickly.
DISORDERLY FONTS: This is arguably the second most glaring marker of errors spotted by the hiring manager. Applicants are advised to avoid making use of fonts that are difficult to read, out of focus or generally disorderly. You also need to bear in mind that not everybody uses the same electronic device as yours, so it is possible that your hiring manager’s device will not support the font with which your CV has been drafted. Hence, your best bets are Times New Roman, Arial, Calibri and Helvetica. You might possess the necessary skills required for the job, but lose out on securing an interview due to an avoidable error such as using the wrong font. Remember, your CV is better looking like the average but meaningful piece of paper than the stylish but uninformative one.
INAPPROPRIATE CV FORMATTING: Sometimes, you could keep all the rules with fonts and colours but still end up with a patchy CV. This may not entirely be your fault, but may as well be if you have been advised accordingly but chose to flout the rules. For some reasons best known to tech geeks, a well-structured CV presented in MS Word format could be muddled up when viewed on another electronic device. Therefore, be sure to send your CV in PDF format unless your prospective employer says otherwise. PDF files eliminate the possibility of third-party editing. They also reduce the risk of sentences being rearranged by Microsoft Word, which is always a high probability.
GRAMMATICAL ERRORS – Bad grammar and poor sentence structuring signal incompetence to most employers. Grammatical errors go beyond substituting sit for sat, education for educations, or one school for three school. Using ambiguous or synonymous words could also do you great disservice. For example, you have no business saying “astonishingly exciting” or “generously benevolent”. Try as much as possible to simplify your CV using basic and professionally-acceptable words. Also, get one or two more people to proof-read before sending. By so doing, your hiring manager won’t be faced with headaches, dizzy spells or the option of tossing your CV into the waste bin.
EXAGGERATED ADJECTIVES: This goes hand in hand with Number 4 above, and cannot be over-emphasised. According to basic English Language, adjectives are qualifiers and should only be treated as such when drafting a CV. Words like marvelous, stupendous, fantastic, magnificent etc. have no place when qualifying your attributes. Taking pride in your accomplishments is a desirable trait, but it should be done subtly. Also, given your level of professional experience, words like exemplary, perfect, exceptional, world-class etc. should be used carefully and moderately. Ordinarily, eyebrows would be raised if employers saw audacious words in a CV belonging to an individual who has just completed NYSC.
FALSE INFORMATION: Any honest editor or second party reader should ask if indeed you possess the qualities attributed to you in your CV. This is why it is advisable to be thoroughly concise with your CV – note the oxymoron. Some organisations go the extra mile to verify every detail from your previous employer in a quest to ascertain your true personality. So, you should be meticulous about the kind of description you outline in your CV. It is better to hear a potential employer say “how come you never told us you were a good marketer?” than “how come you told us you were a top marketing agent when all you actually did was media relations?”
IRRELEVANT INFO: Why expatiate your experience as a member of Boys Scout or Girl Guides if you are applying for the position of a newspaper editor? It could be painful how irrelevant information could prevent you from detailing the experiences you presume are significant. Truth is, most employers are probably busy selecting “best candidates” after reading the first pages of their CVs than trying to make sense of all the clutter that you may lump them with. Therefore, it is necessary that you list ONLY the relevant details in your CV, unless your potential employer requests that you enumerate your extracurricular engagements – which rarely happens.
UNVERIFIABLE REFERENCE: Your relationship with the Sports Minister or State Governor holds little significance if you do not notify them of your intention to enlist them as referees. Therefore, it always pays to notify your referees before enlisting them. However, if you feel distressed by certain limitations (such as the State Governor not approving the inclusion of their private telephone number or email address on your CV), don’t fret. Go ahead and enlist other referees. A number of organisations rely on a credible reference before making an employment decision.
In conclusion, while obeying these rules may not necessarily guarantee you the dream job, it certainly gives you an edge over your counterparts in the highly saturated labour market.
Adesegun Damazio – Brands Advisor at Zenera Consulting